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Disc review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Pop

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Multi-Love

[Jagjaguwar]

3 stars

Neo-psychedelia is worth getting excited about. A new generation of bands well-versed in the blurred edges and sonic surrealism of the late 1960s pop and rock, but also eager to place a new stamp on the form, has been pushing the present-day envelope, and gleefully ignoring the suggestion that guitars are old hat and synths are all that matter. In the process, these bands are making interesting rock music free of the self-consciousness that can so often plague indie music.

The best of this bunch is Tame Impala, the lysergic-soaked Australian ensemble whose 2012 album “Lonerism” represents the state of the psychedelic art. Hot on the Impala’s heels is Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the Ruban Nielson-led trio whose new “Multi-Love” marries the dreamy expansiveness of neo-psychedelia with a funkiness redolent of ‘70s R&B, and even a touch of non-pejorative disco.

“Multi-Love” has summer written all over it, from the moment the sprightly piano stabs meet Nielson’s airy falsetto during the album-opening title tune, through the 6-minute plus multitiered aural edifice that is “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty.” You needn’t notice that Nielson is concerned here with forging meaningful connection in a world that abhors all but the most blatantly transient of pleasures – “Multi-Love” sounds great played loud, the suggestion of sunshine always peeking through the woolly blanket of synths, effect-heavy vocals, and painterly guitars that is draped over all 41 minutes of the album’s expanse.

Of course, if you feel like digging around a bit, you’ll find compositions that surprise and challenge as often as they caress and coddle, and lyrics that deserve your attention, even if they don’t come right out and demand it. Fun, funky, but also substantial and often harmonically adventurous, “Multi-Love” is the first great rock album of summer 2015.

– Jeff Miers

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